50 Cognitive Biases in the Modern World
Cognitive biases are widely accepted as something that makes us human.
Every day, systematic errors in our thought process impact the way we live and work. But in a world where everything we do is changing rapidly—from the way we store information to the way we watch TV—what really classifies as rational thinking?
It’s a question with no right or wrong answer, but to help us decide for ourselves, today’s infographic from TitleMax lists 50 cognitive biases that we may want to become privy to.
In the name of self-awareness, here’s a closer look at three recently discovered biases that we are most prone to exhibiting in the modern world.
AI-infused applications are becoming incredibly good at “personalizing” our content, but will there come a time when we let algorithms make all of our decisions?
Automation bias refers to the tendency to favor the suggestions of automated systems.
Take Netflix, for example. Everything we see on the platform is the result of algorithms—even the preview images that are generated. Then, to harness the power of data and machine learning, Netflix categorizes its content into tens of thousands of micro-genres. Pairing these genre tags with a viewer’s history allows them to assign several of over 2,000 “taste profiles” to each user.
And while there’s nothing wrong with allowing Netflix to guide what we watch, there’s an enormous sea of content standing by. Estimates from 2015 claimed it would take nearly four years to watch all of Netflix’s content. Thousands more hours of content have since been added.
If we want to counter this cognitive bias, finding a new favorite series on platforms like Netflix may require some good old-fashioned human curiosity.
The Google Effect
Also known as “digital amnesia”, the aptly named Google Effect describes our tendency to forget information that can be easily accessed online.
First described in 2011 by Betsy Sparrow (Columbia University) and her colleagues, their paper described the results of several memory experiments involving technology.
In one experiment, participants typed trivia statements into a computer and were later asked to recall them. Half believed the statements were saved, and half believed the statements were erased. The results were significant: participants who assumed they could look up their statements did not make much effort to remember them.
Because search engines are continually available to us, we may often be in a state of not feeling we need to encode the information internally. When we need it, we will look it up.
– Sparrow B, et al. Science 333, 777 (2011)
Our modern brains appear to be re-prioritizing the information we hold onto. Notably, the study doesn’t suggest we’re becoming less intelligent—our ability to learn offline remains the same.
The IKEA Effect
Identified in 2011 by Michael Norton (Harvard Business School) and his colleagues, this cognitive bias refers to our tendency to attach a higher value to things we help create.
Combining the Ikea Effect with other related traits, such as our willingness to pay a premium for customization, is a strategy employed by companies seeking to increase the intrinsic value that we attach to their products.
For instance, American retailer Build-A-Bear Workshop is anchored around creating a highly interactive customer experience. With the help of staff, children (or adults) can assemble their stuffed animals from scratch, then add clothing and accessories at extra cost.
Nike also incorporates this bias into its offering. The footwear company offers a Nike By You line of customizable products, where customers pay a premium to design bespoke shoes with an extensive online configurator.
While there’s nothing necessarily wrong with our susceptibility to the Ikea Effect, understanding its significance may help us make more appropriate decisions as consumers.
What Can We Do?
As we navigate an increasingly complex world, it’s natural for us to unconsciously adopt new patterns of behavior.
Becoming aware of our cognitive biases, and their implications, can help us stay on the right course.
Visualizing the Odds of Dying from Various Accidents
This infographic shows you the odds of dying from a variety of accidents, including car crashes, bee stings, and more.
Infographic: The Odds of Dying from Various Accidents
Fatal accidents account for a significant number of deaths in the U.S. every year. For example, nearly 43,000 Americans died in traffic accidents in 2021.
Without the right context, however, it can be difficult to properly interpret these figures.
To help you understand your chances, we’ve compiled data from the National Safety Council, and visualized the lifetime odds of dying from various accidents.
Data and Methodology
The lifetime odds presented in this graphic were estimated by dividing the one-year odds of dying by the life expectancy of a person born in 2020 (77 years).
Additionally, these numbers are based on data from the U.S., and likely differ in other countries.
|Type of Accident||Lifetime odds of dying (1 in #)|
|Motor vehicle accident||101|
|Complications of medical and surgical care||798|
|Accidental building fire||1,825|
|Choking on food||2,745|
|Drowning in swimming pool||5,782|
|Accidental firearm discharge||7,998|
|Bee or wasp sting||57,825|
For comparison’s sake, the odds of winning the Powerball jackpot are 1 in 292,000,000. In other words, you are 4000x more likely to die by a lightning strike over your lifetime than to win the Powerball lottery.
Continue reading below for further context on some of these accidents.
Motor Vehicle Accidents
Motor vehicle accidents are a leading cause of accidental deaths in the U.S., with a 1 in 101 chance of dying. This is quite a common way of dying, especially when compared to something like bee stings (1 in 57,825).
Unfortunately, a major cause of vehicle deaths is impaired driving. The CDC reports that 32 Americans are killed every day in crashes involving alcohol, which equates to one death every 45 minutes.
For further context, consider this: 30% of all traffic-related deaths in 2020 involved alcohol-impaired drivers.
The odds of drowning in a swimming pool (1 in 5,782) are significantly higher than those of drowning in general (1 in 10,386). According to the CDC, there are 4,000 fatal drownings every year, which works out to 11 deaths per day.
Drowning also happens to be a leading cause of death for children. It is the leading cause for kids aged 1-4, and second highest cause for kids aged 5-14.
A rather surprising fact about drowning is that 80% of fatalities are male. This has been attributed to higher rates of alcohol use and risk-taking behaviors.
Accidental Firearm Discharge
Lastly, let’s look at accidental firearm deaths, which have lifetime odds of 1 in 7,998. That’s higher than the odds of drowning (general), as well as dying in an airplane accident.
This shouldn’t come as a major surprise, since the U.S. has the highest rates of gun ownership in the world. More importantly, these odds highlight the importance of properly securing one’s firearms, as well as learning safe handling practices.
As a percentage of total gun-related deaths (45,222 in 2020), accidental shootings represent a tiny 1%. The two leading causes are suicide (54%) and homicide (43%).
Interested in learning more about death? Revisit one of our most popular posts of all time: Visualizing the History of Pandemics.
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